Refining Furnace – A Distinguishing Grace – Spurgeon

Waking up at 5am with The Lord, with many people on my heart, He drove me deep in prayer and out of that came His Living and Active Word that strengthens my feeble arms and my weak knees. You are God! I am reminded of many things of which The Lord has shown me. “So, humble yourselves under God’s strong hand, and in his own good time he will lift you up. You can throw the whole weight of your anxieties upon him, for you are his personal concern.” 1 Peter 5:7 (v. phillips)

What is the thing that drives you to the Lord, what if that thing were taken away? You say, Lord remove the thing, I will be better off, I will still worship You, but what if He cares about your love toward Him so deeply that He knows best how to refine you in the furnace (Isaiah 48:10) for His Loving service

Love covers a multitude of sins
“Most important of all, continue to show deep love for each other, for love covers a multitude of sins” 1 Peter 4:8

Where sin abounds grace abounds much much more
“God’s law was given so that all people could see how sinful they were. But as people sinned more and more, God’s wonderful grace became more abundant.” Roman’s 5:20

Is Christ enough when your spouse is loving you the best way he/she knows how in this moment? #testingofourfaith
By His Grace, I get to work that out with God, answer that question and make that decision based on His Word and His Love for me, not the circumstance.

Let the lord do what is right in His eyes, what He thinks best.
” So Samuel told Eli everything; he didn’t hold anything back. “It is the LORD’s will,” Eli replied. “Let him do what he thinks best.” 1 Samuel 3:18

It is good for me to be close to the Lord
“But as for me, how good it is to be near God! I have made the Sovereign LORD my shelter, and I will tell everyone about the wonderful things you do.” Psalm 73:28

It is hard pressed, Living in the Light of His Truth while accepting my reality.
“But we have this treasure in jars of clay to show that this all surpassing power is from God and not from us. We are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair.” 2 Corinthians 4:7-8

“God’s People in the Furnace”

A Sermon
(No. 35)
Delivered on Sabbath Morning, August 12, 1855, by the
At New Park Street Chapel, Southwark.

“I have chosen thee in the furnace of affliction.”- Isa 48:10
WHEN travelling through the country, you have often noticed that in different spots the old rocks peep out from under the soil, as if they would let us know what earth’s bones are made of, and what are the solid foundations of this globe. So in searching through the Scriptures you will find here instruction, here admonition, here rebuke, and here comfort, but very frequently you will discover the old doctrines like old rocks rising amid other matters; and when you little expect it you will find election, redemption, justification, effectual calling, final perseverance or covenant security introduced, just to let us see what the solid foundations of the gospel are, and what are those deep and mysterious truths on which the entire gospel system must rest. So in this text, for instance, when there seemed in the chapter but little need of the mention of the doctrine of God’s choosing his people, on a sudden the Holy Spirit moves the prophet’s lips and bids him utter this sentiment, “I have chosen thee;” I have chosen thee by my eternal, sovereign, distinguishing grace; I have chosen thee in covenant purposes; I have chosen thee according to my electing love; “I have chosen thee in the furnace of affliction.” Well, it is a good thing that they are mentioned sometimes when we little expect it; for these are things which we are apt to forget. The tendency of the many in the present age is to slight all doctrinal knowledge, and to say, “We care not whether a thing be true or not.” This age is a superficial one. Few ministers plough deeper than the top soil; there are very few who come into the inward matter of the gospel, and deal with the stable things on which our faith must rest; and therefore we bless and adore the Holy Spirit that he so frequently pens these glorious truths to make us recollect that there is such a thing as election, after all. “I have chosen thee in the furnace of affliction.” How ever, I am not going to dwell upon that, but after making one or two preliminary observations, I shall proceed to discuss the subject of the furnace of affliction being the place where God’s chosen ones are continually found.
And the first observation I shall make will be this: all persons in the furnace of affliction are not chosen. The text says, “I have chosen thee in the furnace of affliction,” and it implies that there may be, and there doubtless are, some in the furnace who are not chosen. How many persons there are who suppose that because they are tried, afflicted, and tempted, therefore they are the children of God, whereas they are no such thing. It is a great truth that every child of God is afflicted; but it is a lie that every afflicted man is a child of God. Every child of God will have some trial or other; but every man who has a trial is not necessarily an heir of heaven. The child of God may be in poverty-he frequently is; but we must not infer that therefore, necessarily every man who is poor is a child of God, for many such are depraved and ruined, blaspheming against God and going far into iniquity. Many a child of God loses his property; but we are not therefore to conclude that every bankrupt, or every insolvent is a vessel of mercy; indeed there is often some suspicion that he is not. A child of God may have his crops blasted, and mildew seize his fields, but that does not prove his election, for multitudes who never were chosen of God have had the mildew and the blast as well as he. He may be calumniated. and his character may be slandered, but that may be the case with the wickedest worldling also; for there have been men far from religious who yet have been slandered-in politics, or in literature. No tribulation ever proves us to be children of God, except it be sanctified by grace, but affliction is the common lot of all men-man is born to it, even as the sparks fly upward; and you must not infer, because you happen to be troubled, because you are poor, or sick, or tried in your minds, that therefore you are a child of God. If you do imagine so, you are building on a false foundation; you have taken a wrong thought, and you are not right in the matter at all. I would, this morning, if possible, disturb some of you who may have been laying a healing plaster to your souls when you have no right to do so. I would show you if I could, very plainly, that after all your suffering, you may yet, through much tribulation, enter the kingdom of hell. There is such a thing as through trial going to the pit of perdition, for the road of the wicked is not always easy, nor are the paths of sin ever pleasant. There are trials in the pathway of the ungodly, there are troubles they have to suffer which are quite as acute as those of the children of God. Oh! trust not in your troubles; fix your thoughts on Jesus; make him the only object of your trust, and let the only test be this, “Am I one with Christ? Am I leaning upon him ?” If so, whether I am tried or not, I am a child of God. but let me be ever so much tried, ‘though I give my body to be burned, and have not charity, it profiteth me nothing.”‘ Many an afflicted man has not been a child of God. Many of you no doubt can recollect persons in your lifetime whose afflictions made them worse instead of better; and of a great many men it may be said, as Aaron said, “Behold, I put gold into the furnace, and out of it came this calf.” Many a calf comes out of the furnace. Many a man is put into the furnace and comes out worse than he was before-he comes out a calf. Men passed through the fire in the days of the kings of Israel-when they passed through the fire to Moloch; but Moloch’s fire did not purify or benefit them; on the contrary, it made them worse; it made them dedicated to a false god. We are told also in the Word of God, how a certain class of people are put into the furnace and get no good by it, and are not the children of God. But, lest any should doubt what I have said, let them turn to the passage in the 22nd chapter of Ezekiel, 17th and 18th verses, “And the word of the Lord came unto me, saying, son of man, the house of Israel, is to me become dross: all they are brass, and tin, and iron, and lead, in the midst of the furnace; they are even the dross of silver. Therefore thus saith the Lord God; Because ye are all become dross, behold, therefore I will gather you into the midst of Jerusalem. As they gather silver, and brass, and iron, and lead, and tin, into the midst of the furnace, to blow the fire upon it, to melt it; so will I gather you in mine anger and in my fury, and I will leave you there, and melt you.” So you see there are some who feel the furnace who are none of the Lord’s, some to whom there is no promise of deliverance, some who have no hope that thereby they are becoming more and more pure and more fit for heaven; but on the contrary, God leaves them there as dross is left, to be utterly consumed; they have on earth the foretaste of hell, and the brand of the demon is set upon them in their afflictions even here. Let that thought be taken to heart by any who are building their salvation on false grounds. Afflictions are no proof of sonship, though sonship always ensures affliction.
But the second preliminary remark I would make is on the immutability of God’s love to his people. “I have chosen thee in the furnace of affliction.” I chose thee before thou wast here; yea, I chose thee before thou hadst a being, and when all creatures lay before me in the pure mass of creatureship, and I could create or not create as I pleased, I chose and created thee a vessel of mercy appointed unto eternal life: and when thou in common with the whole race, hadst fallen, though I might have crushed thee with them, and sent thee down to hell, I chose thee in thy fallen condition, and I provided for thy redemption: in the fulness of time I sent my Son, who fulfilled my law and made it honourable. I chose thee at thy birth, when a helpless infant thou didst sleep upon thy mother’s breast. I chose thee when thou didst grow up in childhood with all thy follies and thy sins. Determined to save thee, I watched o’er thy path when, Satan’s blind slave, thou didst sport with death. I chose thee when, in manhood, thou didst sin against me with a high hand; when thy unbridled lusts dashed thee on madly towards hell. I chose thee, then, when thou wast a blasphemer and a swearer, and very far from me. I chose thee, then, even when thou wast dead in trespasses and sins: I loved thee, and still thy name was kept in my book. The hour appointed came; I redeemed thee from thy sin; I made thee love; I spake to thee, and made thee leave thy sins and become my child; and I chose thee then over again. Since that hour how often hast thou forgotten me! but I have never forgotten thee. Thou hast wandered from me; thou hast rebelled against me; yea, thy words have been exceeding hot against me, and thou hast robbed me of mine honour; but I chose thee even then; and now that I put thee in the furnace thinkest thou that my love is changed? Am I a summer friend fleeing from thee in the winter? Am I one who loves thee in prosperity and doth cast thee off in adversity? Nay; hearken to these my words. thou furnace-tried one, “I have chosen thee in the furnace of affliction.” Think not, then, when you are in trouble that God has cast you off. Think he has cast you off if you never have any trials and troubles, but when in the furnace, say, “Did he not tell me this beforehand?”
“Temptation or pain?-he told me no less:
The heirs of salvation, I know from his word,
Through much tribulation must follow their Lord.”
O blessed reflection! let it comfort us: his love does not change; it cannot be made to alter; the furnace cannot scorch us, not a single hair of our head can perish; we are as safe in the fire as we are out of it; he loves us as much in the depths of tribulation as he does in the heights of our joy and exultation. Oh! thou who art beloved of friends, “when thy father and mother forsake thee the Lord will take thee up.” Thou who canst say, “He that ate bread with me hath lifted up his heel against me,” “though all men forsake thee,” saith Jehovah, “yet will not I.” O Zion, say not thou art forgotten of God; hear him when he speaks-“Can a woman forget her sucking child that she should not have compassion on the son of her womb? Yea, they may forget, yet will I never forget thee.” “I have graven thee upon my hands; thy walls are continually before me.” Rejoice then, O Christian, in the second thought, that God’s love does not fail in the furnace, but is as hot as the furnace, and hotter still.
And now to the subject, which is this-God’s people in the furnace. And in discussing it we shall first of all endeavour to prove the fact that if you want God’s people you will find them in the furnace; secondly, we will try to show the reasons why there is a furnace;thirdly, the benefits of the furnace; fourthly, comforts in the furnace. And may God help us in so doing!
I. First, then, I state the fact that IF YOU WANT GOD’S PEOPLE YOU MUST GENERALLY LOOK FOR THEM IN THE FURNACE. Look at the world in its primeval age, when Adam and Eve are expelled the garden. Behold, they have begotten two sons, Cain and Abel: which of them is the child of God? Yonder one who lies there smitten by the club, a lifeless corpse; he who has just now been in the furnace of his brother’s enmity and persecution-that is the heir of heaven. A few hundred years roll on, and where is the child of God? There is one man whose ears are continually vexed with the conversation of the wicked and who walks with God, even Enoch, and he is the child of God. Descend further still, till you come to the days of Noah. You will find the man who is laughed at, hissed at, hooted as a fool, a simple ton, an idiot, building a ship upon dry land, standing in the furnace of slander and laughter: that is Noah, the elect of God. Go on still through history; let the names of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, pass before you, and you may write upon all of them: “these were God’s tried people.” Then go down to the time when Israel went into Egypt. Do you ask me to find out God’s people? I take you not to the palaces of Pharaoh, I do not ask you to walk through the stately halls of Memphis, or go to hundred-gated Thebes; I take you to none of the places decked with the splendour, the glories, and dignity of monarchs; but I take you to the brick kilns of Egypt. See yonder slaves smarting beneath the lash, whose cry of oppression goes up to heaven. The tale of their bricks is doubled, and they have no straw wherewith to fashion them. These are the people of God. They are in the furnace. As we follow on in the paths of history, where were God’s family next? They were in the furnace of the wilderness suffering privation and pain. The fiery serpent hissed upon them; the sun scorched them, their feet were weary, they lacked water, and bread failed them, and was only supplied by miracle. They were in no desirable position; but amidst them-for all are not Israel that are of Israel-were the chosen ones, those who were most in the furnace, Joshua, the son of Nun, and Caleb, the son of Jephunneh, against whom the people took up stones to stone them; these were the sons of God these were distinguished above their fellows as being elect out of the chosen nation. Still turn over the blessed pages; pass through Judges and come to the time of Saul, and where was God’s servant then? Where is the man whom the king delighteth to honour? Where is the man after God’s own heart? He is in the in the caves of Engedi, climbing the goat tracks, hunted like the partridge by a remorseless foe. And after his days where were the saints? Not in the halls of Jezebel, nor sitting at the table of Ahab. Behold, they are hidden by fifties in the cave, and fed by bread and water. Behold yon man upon the mountain top wrapping his shaggy garment round him; at one time his dwelling is by the rippling brook, where ravens bring him bread and flesh; at another time a widow is his host, whose only possessions are a little oil and a handful of meal-in the furnace Elijah stands, the remnant of God’s chosen people. Take history through; there is no need for me to follow it up, otherwise I might tell you of the days of Maccabees, when God’s children were put to death without number, by all manner of tortures till then unheard of. I might tell you of the days of Christ, and point to the despised fishermen, to be laughed at, and persecuted apostles. I might go on through the days of popery, and point to those who died upon the mountains or suffered in the plains. The march of the army of God may be tracked by their ashes left behind them. The course of the ship of glory may be traced by the white sheen of sufferings left on the sea of time. Like as a comet when it flashes in its glory, leaveth a blaze behind it for a moment, so hath the church left behind it blazing fires of persecution and trouble. The path of the just is scarred on earth’s breast the monuments of the Church are the sepulchres of her martyrs. Earth has been ploughed with deep furrows wherever they have lived. You will not find the saints of God where you do not find the furnace burning round about them. I sup pose it will be so until the latest age. Until that time shall come when we shall sit under our own vine and our own fig-tree, none making us afraid or daring to attempt it, we must still expect to suffer. Were we not slandered, were we not the butt of’ ridicule, we would not think ourselves the children of God. We glory that we stand prominent in the day of battle; we thank our enemies for all their shafts, for each one bears upon it proofs of our Father’s love. We thank our foemen for every stab, for it only cuts our armour and rattles on our mail, never reaching the heart. We thank them for every slander they have forged, and for every lie they have manufactured, for we know in whom we have believed, and know that these things cannot separate us from his love; yea, we take this as a mark of our being called, that we, as the sons of God, can suffer persecution for righteousness’ sake.
It is a fact, I say, that you will find religion in the furnace. If I were asked to find religion in London, I protest the last place I should think of going to look for it would be in yon huge structure that excceds a palace in glory, where you see men decked out in all the toys which the old harlot of Babylon herself once did love. But I should go to a humbler place than that. I should not go to a place where they had the government to assist them, and the great and the noble of the land to back them up; but I should generally go among the poor, among the despised, where the furnace blazed the hottest; there I should expect to find saints-but not among the respectable and fashionable churches of our land. This is a fact then that God’s people are often in the furnace.
II. And now, secondly, THE REASON FOR THIS. Why is it that God’s children get there? Why does God see fit to put them in the furnace?
1. The first reason I have is this-that it is the stamp of the convenant. You know there are certain documents which, in order to be legal, must have a government stamp put upon them. If they have not this stamp, they may be written, but they will not be at all legal and cannot be pleaded in a court of law. Now we are told what the stamp of the covenant is. There are two stamps, and for your information allow me to refer you to the book of Gen 15:17 and there you will see what they are. When Abraham was lying down at night, a horror of darkness came upon him, and God made a covenant with him, and it is said, “And it came to pass, that when the sun went down and it was dark, behold a smoking furnace and a burning lamp that passed between the pieces.” These two things were the stamps that made the covenant secure: “a burning lamp”-the light for God’s people, light for their darkness, light to guide them all the way to heaven; and beside the lamp “a smoking furnace.” Shall I then wish you to rend the smoking furnace off? Do I wish to get rid of it? No; for that would invalidate the whole. Therefore will I cheerfully bear it, since it is absolutely necessary to render that covenant

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